Synopsis: ITLA Wins Again, As Some IL Construction GL Claims Not Blocked by Exclusive Remedy Protection in IL WC Act.
Editor’s comment: As I have advised my readers, Illinois is a one-party State. In a one-party State, the controlling side almost always gets what they want. To me, this ruling is a clear win for one of the largest political donation machines in our state—ITLA or the IL Trial Lawyers Ass’n.
In Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews, Claimant was injured at work. It appears there are two different corporations involved—one is Bulley & Andrews. Bulley & Andrews, LLC is one of Chicago’s oldest construction firm and general contractors. The firm was founded in 1891 as a partnership when Frederick Bulley, a 21-year-old English stonemason, partnered with Alfred Andrews, an architect. The company is headquartered on the near north side of Chicago and has a national presence.
Bulley & Andrews LLC served as the general contractor for a construction project in Chicago that used workers with Bulley & Andrews Concrete Restoration LLC, doing business as “Bulley Concrete.” Bulley Concrete is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bulley & Andrews, and the companies are operated as separate corporations, according to documents in Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews LLC.
As part of the project, the main corporation–Bulley & Andrews–used their sub Bulley Concrete and its employees for foundations and other concrete work but did not enter into any contract with Bulley Concrete.
Claimant Munoz worked for Bulley Concrete, and that company paid his wages and withheld taxes on his behalf. He claimed he suffered injuries while working on a construction project while so employed in December 2016.
Claimant filed a workers compensation claim against Bulley Concrete and also filed a separate personal injury action against Bulley & Andrews. The parent company moved to dismiss the suit as barred by the exclusive remedy provisions in Section 5 of the IL Workers’ Compensation Act. This major IL employer argued it had a preexisting legal obligation to pay Claimant Munoz’ workers compensation benefits and it did so. Having paid WC benefits, the parent sought protection from possibly multi-million dollar civil claims against it.
In response to a motion to dismiss, a Cook County circuit court judge granted it and dismissed the claim. Following basically the same reasoning—payment of WC benefits by the parent corporation blocked a civil claim for an employee of a subsidiary, our IL appellate court affirmed.
Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act do not extend the exclusive remedy protection of the IL WC Comp Act to a general contractor who is the parent of the subsidiary but not the employee’s “immediate employer.”
In reversing and remanding, the Illinois Supreme Court said based on legal definitions “immunity does not hinge on the payment of benefits” in workers compensation law. Rather, “immunity is conferred only on immediate employers of an injured worker.” Since Bulley & Andrews was not Ms. Munoz’s immediate employer, the court said it was not immune from civil liability to Claimant for possible negligence.
The fact Claimant Munoz’s immediate employer was a subsidiary of Bulley & Andrews had no merit, the court added. If a parent company and its subsidiary are operated as separate entities, only the entity that is the immediate employer of the injured worker was entitled to exclusive remedy immunity.
So What Does Bulley & Andrews Do?
Well, I am not sure why they have to have a parent corporation that is a general contractor and an LLC that is a subsidiary to be their concrete contractor on the same job. It would appear to be a simple task to run all of it under the main corporation, if the goal is to avoid dual litigation—WC claims and multi-million dollar civil claims from any and all of their workers.
Please also note the subsidiary can subrogate to recover the WC benefits paid from any civil claim brought against the parent—if you don’t understand how that works and have interest, send a reply.
On another note, I truly feel all construction companies in Illinois should have wide-ranging security cameras to document what their folks are doing at work and maybe prevent losses when possible.
I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.
Synopsis: Will WC Surveillance Operatives Start to Use Remote Outdoor Surveillance Cameras and Drones?
Editor’s comment: There is a pending criminal case that may provide guidance on this interesting issue—can a WC surveillance company start to use remote cams or flying drones when they are watching/recording a Claimant?
I read a ruling about the U.S. Justice Department urging SCOTUS or the U.S. Supreme Court to rule law enforcement officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they posted three surveillance cameras on public property outside a house in Mattoon, Ill.
In the house, a criminal defendant was suspected of taking part in a methamphetamine ring. In a brief, the Justice Department urged our highest court to deny Defendant Tuggle’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Defendant entered a conditional plea of guilty to trafficking charges the day before his trial was to begin, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence gathered by the cameras.
In upholding the denial, the brief says, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “correctly recognized that the use of video cameras — which were placed on utility poles on public property to capture the same views available to any ordinary passerby — did not intrude on Defendant’s or anyone’s reasonable expectation of privacy.”
From my perspective, the whole issue derives from the phrase “reasonable expectation of privacy.” If there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for the use of surveillance cameras in the fashion they were used in this reported claim, WC surveillance cameras and drones could and should similarly be used, particularly in remote or rural areas. A solid surveillance operative will closely adhere to this ruling—keep the cameras on public property and record what anyone on such property might see. Please also note there are drones with amazing cameras with platforms that can stay in the air for hours, if not, days.
I will keep watching and report when the SCOTUS ruling is published. I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.